Vasily Artemyev had a hand in a couple of Russia’s tries in their win over Zimbabwe – Photo: Masha Anderson
Russia remain in the hunt for the final place at Rugby World Cup 2015 after beating Zimbabwe 23-15 in their Repechage semi-final in Krasnoyarsk on Saturday.
The Bears, bidding to reach a second consecutive tournament, will now face the winner of the match later today in Montevideo between Uruguay and Hong Kong for the right to join hosts England, Australia, Wales and Fiji in Pool A at RWC 2015.
Russia made the better start in to the delight of the home crowd, who greeted every touch of the ball by the Bears with a huge cheer to create an incredible atmosphere.
Fly half Yuri Kushnarev kicked a third minute penalty but then failed to add the extras to Igor Klyuchnikov’s try. A strong driving maul was stopped just short of the line, but the ball was swung wide for the full back to touch down.
A second try followed for Russia in the 23rd minute when a good break from Vasily Artemyev led to a period of pressure in the Zimbabwe 22, the pressure telling as wing Denis Simplikevich dived over in the corner to make it 13-0.
Battle to the finish
Having already turned down a kickable penalty, Zimbabwe fly half Guy Cronje missed his first attempt at goal in the 27th minute. Zimbabwe were not to be denied though as two minutes later number 8 Lambert Groenewald charged through the defence with ease to race away and dot down under the posts.
Cronje slotted the conversion but then missed a second penalty attempt and Zimbabwe were lucky to go in only six points down after Russia wasted a glorious chance to score on the stroke of half-time. Flanker Andrey Garbuzov charged across the pitch but instead of passing to Simplikevich for a certain try he got white-line fever and tried to go on his own and was penalised for holding on a metre from the line.
Cronje cut the deficit to 13-10 with a 48th-minute penalty but while he was off the field having a head-wound stitched Russia made Zimbabwe pay for missing touch with a penalty. The Bears attacked quickly and Artemyev sent Victor Gresev clear, the number 8 side-stepping the last defender to touch down.
Zimbabwe were given renewed hope when referee Nigel Owens sent Russian prop Andrei Igretsov to the sin-bin just before the hour mark, but replacement Lawrence Tambwera’s resulting penalty hit the post and then rebounded off his chasing team-mate’s knee to safety to the Bears’ relief.
Russia held firm while they were a man down and increased their lead with another Kushnarev penalty with six minutes to go. Zimbabwe, though, battled to the end and were rewarded when wing Tafadzwa Chitokwindo received the ball deep in his own half and raced through the defence to touch down.
It was nothing more than a consolation score, though, as Zimbabwe’s hopes of reaching a first Rugby World Cup since 1991 ended in Siberia.